Posted April 10, 2016 by Gabriel Posternak

Should you buy a Tankless Water Heater?

Spring is the ideal time for home maintenance related to heating equipment, so you might be flirting with the idea of replacing your boiler for a tankless water heater. Even considering the energy saving of those water heaters, a tankless option might not be suitable for all situations. Which one is the right for you? Let us help you decide!

Energy saving on a tankless water heating

Tankless water heaters -also known as demand-type or instantaneous- heat the water only as it is needed, avoiding energy losses associated with storing gallons of hot water all the time.

Tankless water heaters heat water directly, when a hot water tap is turned on, cold water travels through piping inside the unit, and a gas burner or an electric element heats it. With this system, you don’t need to wait for a storage tank to fill up with enough hot water, but the speed of heating it may affect the output flow rate.

Tankless water heaters can avoid the standby heat losses associated with heating and keeping hot water when not needed, and that can amount to 50% energy savings over a conventional hot water tank system, about $165/annual on the utility bills for an average household. However, gas-fired tankless water -that provides a higher flow- commonly have a constantly burning pilot that equals the savings to an energy efficient storage water heater, that uses that pilot to keep water hot on stand by.

Flow and simultaneous use of hot water

Instantaneous water heaters provide 2-7 gallons per minute vs 7.5-9.5 gallons per minute that a storage water heater provides, so you need to consider usage before switching systems.

As we told you before, gas-fired ones gives a higher flow than the electric ones, but even those cannot supply enough hot water for multiple uses at the same time. They cannot produce a large amount all at once neither, so it will also struggle to fill a big spa-like tub or jacuzzi if it’s not one of the bigger ones.

If you live in a high-demand household, you might consider installing two or more tankless water heaters, connected in parallel, or separate tankless water heaters for appliances -like clothes washer or dishwater- that use a lot of hot water in your home. On the other hand, those systems are perfect to feed hot water to remote bathrooms or appliances, or a booster for a solar water heating system.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=blMZAdjKD2M

Cost of installation

Overall price for a gas-fired tankless water heater plus installation nearly doubles the cost of a conventional gas water heater, but you can apply for tax credit and rebates on energy efficiency programs. Also consider that while a conventional water heater typically uses a half-inch gas line, a tankless water heater requires three-quarter-inch pipe, so you might need to add those costs of changing the plumbing.

The electric versions of the tankless water heater are much cheaper, but remember that are only suited for point-of-use applications -like instant kitchen hot water- as a consequence of their slow flow rate, not really for a whole house use.

But not everything reduces to storage water heater vs tankless water heater, so check Energy 101  for more water heating options and check with your trusted contractor for the best solution for your area.

And, either conventional or not, energy savings start by changing your behaviour: turn off the faucet when scrubbing dishes or washing your hair in the shower, setting your water heater to vacation mode when you’re away, upgrade the insulation of your hot water plumbing, installing low flow fixtures and always choosing the energy efficient water heating system.

Any other doubt about tankless water heating? Leave it in the comments so we can help you find if it’s the best option for your home.

Feature photo credit: Roger Mommaerts via Flickr

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